Clarets captain Tom Heaton hoping to strengthen his claim for the England jersey

Keeping the ball out of the net will always be Tom Heaton’s main priority.

Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 7:30 am
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Tom Heaton of England in action during the international friendly match between England and Spain at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

But the Clarets captain is keen to join the goalkeeping evolution in a bid to stake his claim on the England number one slot.

The 32-year-old stood opposite to one of the best ball-playing stoppers in the business at Anfield on Sunday, though he considers Manchester City’s Ederson, Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris and Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga to be on a par with Alisson in that department.

“He’s brilliant,” said Heaton. “You look at a few of them across the board: Ederson at City, Alisson at Liverpool, Kepa at Chelsea, Lloris and Spurs, and there are others.

“There’s definitely an evolution in goalkeeping, certainly to a degree with the style of play and how they play with the possession based teams.

“I think he’s gone in there and done it really well, it’s certainly moving things on and we’re all trying to adapt and add that in to our game.

“Goalkeeping, for me, is still all about keeping the ball out of the net but that’s a positive barrier that’s been pushed up - playing with the feet.”

England boss Gareth Southgate leaned towards Everton keeper Jordan Pickford throughout the summer’s World Cup as he introduced a system that encouraged his side to play out from the back.

Pickford is certainly comfortable with the ball at his feet having made the third highest amount of passes of goalkeepers in the Premier League this season.

His total of 883 is only bettered by Huddersfield Town’s Jonas Lossl (900) and Watford’s Ben Foster (920).

Ahead of Southgate’s squad announcement tomorrow, in readiness for European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro in Group A, Heaton said: “When something like that happens and everything gets lifted up a little bit with the quality you try to adapt and add it in.

“It’s certainly something I’ve looked at over the last few years. It often comes with the style of play, that will become more prevalent over the next few years with goalkeepers. They’ll get picked on the style of play so it’s certainly something I’ve tried to add in.

“It often comes from how a team wants to play, whether you need to do it. They’re excellent exponents of it but I think the exposure to it, with the options they’ve got, that’s the way they want to do it.

“Sometimes it can be lost a little bit. Of course, with the way these teams want to play, it’s vitally important that they’ve got that capability, but I don’t think it should ever be lost that keeping the ball out of the net is the priority.”

Heaton will be waiting around for the phone to ring tomorrow, praying for good news on the international front.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper was on Southgate’s standby list for the World up in Russia after recovering from a shoulder injury but hasn’t featured for his country in nearly two years.

Heaton has made two of his three appearances under Southgate, with the other during Roy Hodgson’s reign, but he’s hoping to add to that.

“For me, I’m open minded to what can happen,” he said.

“It’s someone else’s decision if I get selected. Of course, it’s something I want to do. I would certainly make the most of it.

“I still feel like I’ve got a lot to give. I still harbour massive England ambitions, so we’ll see where it takes me.

“I know the announcement for the England squad is Wednesday. I’ll be loitering around the phone on Tuesday. 

“It would be incredible if selected. It would be a nice marker for me. Hopefully this will be the next step on another journey.”